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Why It Is Entirely Democrats’ Fault if They Lose the Senate

By: Wednesday April 16, 2014 12:41 pm

Election watchers believe there is a legitimate chance Democrats could narrowly lose control of the Senate this year, but if they do it will be entirely their own fault.

Most of the time when people make such statements it is hyperbole stemming from issues with the party’s messaging or ground game operations, but those things tend to influence elections at the margins. What really shapes elections are broad fundamentals (demographics, state of the economy) and the structural rules governing the election. It with the later that Democrats have failed measurably.

The District of Columbia has more people than the states of Wyoming or Vermont. The residents of D.C. pay federal taxes and many of them have died defending this country, but they still lack any representation in Congress. Ironically, the people who actually live in the so-called capital of the “free world” are denied the fundamental freedom to choose their own government at the federal level.

There has long been a proposal that would quickly and easily fix this injustice:  D.C. Statehood. The residential parts of  the district would simply be turned into a new state. It would only take an act of Congress. Democrats could have used their big majority in 2009 to adopted it, giving the people of D.C. the same rights as all other Americans.

Based on the demographics of the district it would likely elect two new Democratic senators, making Republican chances of winning control of the chamber effectively zero. It would also have had the added benefit of slightly improving (but not completely fixing) the overwhelmingly white bias in the Senate.

Democrats attempted a half-measure in 2009 that would have given D.C. only a vote in the House but not the Senate. This measure failed when Republicans used Congress’s control over all of D.C. local laws to force on the residents an unpopular gun provision. The whole incident demonstrates why anything short of statehood would be an injustice.

I find it deeply disappointing that Democrats have made going after Republicans voter ID laws that might “suppress” minority voters when Congressional Democrats refused to actually enfranchise the heavily African-American population of D.C.

While it is impossible to know how Congressional Republicans would act if the roles were reversed I find it unimaginable that they would ever tolerate denying a territory with over 600,000 mostly conservative white Americans Congressional representational and control over their own laws. I suspect fixing the problem would be the number Photo by one cause of right wing talk radio.

Congressional Democrats had the chance to do the morally right thing and also help themselves out politically. They failed to act when they could, so if they narrowly lose the Senate it will be entirely their own fault.

Photo by How I See Life under Creative Commons license

Immigration Reform’s Big Obstacle: The Important Senate Races Are Very White

By: Monday April 14, 2014 11:13 am

Senator Mary Landrieu is up for reelection in Louisiana, which has a 4.5% Hispanic population

Despite some early optimism about immigration reform at the beginning of Obama’s second term, as we have gotten closer to the next election the chance of progress has grown increasingly remote. One of the biggest problems for immigration reform is the shape of the 2014 election. This year the Hispanic vote is simply not very critical to victory in any hotly contested race, which takes away grassroots political pressure for action on immigration.

Democrats winning back the House is extremely unlikely since the GOP has huge structural advantage there, so the big fight will be over the Senate. There Republicans have a chance of picking up enough seats to win the chamber — and almost all of the most competitive races are in overwhelmingly white states.

According to the Cook Political Report the ten Senate seats most likely to switch partisan control this year are: Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Only two of these ten states have a lower percentage of white non-Hispanics than the country as a whole, Georgia and Louisiana, but that is mainly because of their large African-American populations.

Most importantly, all ten top Senate contests have significantly fewer Hispanics than the national average. Georgia is the competitive state with the largest share of Hispanics, but even there Hispanics make up only 9.2 percent of the state’s population compared to the national average of 16.9. Interestingly, Georgia is also one of the only two Republican held states Democrats have a chance of winning.

State Hispanic or Latino %
Alaska 6.1
Arkansas 6.8
Georgia 9.2
Kentucky 3.2
Louisiana 4.5
Michigan 4.6
Montana 3.1
North Carolina 8.7
South Dakota 3.1
West Virginia 1.3
Average 5.06

On average Hispanics make up just 5.06 percent of the population in these competitive states. For a comparison that is roughly what the size of the national Hispanic population was back in 1970.

The Senate playing field this year helps both Republicans and Democrats mostly ignore the issue without facing political repercussion. This is a perfect example of how the inherent white bias in the design of your federal elections can impact federal policy.

RNC Reince Priebus Chair Wants to Eliminate Campaign Donation Limits

By: Wednesday April 9, 2014 10:14 am

RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus

The recent Supreme court decision on McCutcheon v. FEC maybe only one small step towards completely eliminating almost all federal campaign finance law if the Republican party has their way.  On the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Republican National Committee Reince Priebus said he opposes any caps on donations to political parties:

[Reince Priebus]: I don’t think we should have caps at all.

[Hugh Hewitt]: That’s what I wanted to get to, because I don’t, either. I think that contribution limits are unconstitutional, and they have to be revisited. Will you look for an opportunity to put that before the Court as well?

[Reince Priebus]: Absolutely, I would. And I would look to another, and I would look to cases that allow us to raise soft money, and I would look to cases that allow us to raise money for the conventions, and but disclose it all.

Given the Court’s recent opinion it would not be surprising to see the RNC help bring a new broader case on donation limits in the near future.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license

Moving to the Right Won’t Help Obamacare Politically

By: Friday April 4, 2014 11:19 am

Remember when Democrats promised the Affordable Care Act was a “starter home?” Well some Senate Democrats think it should be the starting point for even more conservative health care policies. A groups of conservative Democrats are suggesting some “fixes” to Obamacare which include pushing for the sale of insurance across state lines and an even [...]

Democrats Retake Lead in Generic Ballot

By: Wednesday April 2, 2014 11:08 am

There is some good news for Democrats this morning. For the first time in months they now hold the lead in Quinnipiac‘s generic ballot question. The national poll found 40 percent would vote for a Democrat for Congress if the election was held today while 38 percent would vote for the Republican. This is a [...]

D.C. is a Travesty of Democracy

By: Monday March 31, 2014 12:45 pm

It is both disturbing and deeply ironic how the supposed capitol of the free world, Washington D.C., doesn’t have access to basic democratic freedoms. From the rules that govern voting rights to how the local elections are run, the district is a perfect example of what should never be allowed.

Young People Are Heavily Aligned With the Democratic Party

By: Friday March 28, 2014 12:59 pm

While Democrats had a modest edge with young voters for the last twenty years, starting in 2006 the scale of advantage has become significantly larger. From Gallup: Once individuals vote the same party a few times in a row the chance they stay loyal to that party goes up, so long-term this could become a [...]

New York Moves Country Closer to Eliminating the Electoral College

By: Wednesday March 26, 2014 1:22 pm

In the near future the candidate that actually gets the most votes could be guaranteed to become President instead of using the unfair and insane system we currently have. The New York legislature recently voted overwhelmingly to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The bill only needs to signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. While [...]

How Obama Helped the GOP Become the Party of Old People

By: Wednesday March 26, 2014 11:47 am

For most of the past two decades the Grand Old Party didn’t actually get its support from older voters. Not very long ago the Democratic party had an advantage with senior citizens but that has disappeared since President Obama took office. From Gallup: The demographic reversal is huge and one of the most significant things [...]

How a Bad Election System Makes the Racial Partisan Divide a Big Problem

By: Monday March 24, 2014 1:15 pm

This racial divide wouldn’t be as big a political problem if we had a well designed political system that properly reflects the whole electorate, but our system for electing Congress currently has a huge bias towards white voters.

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